How to salvage AVEN, if it is worth salvaging
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think that when someone says “AVEN encourages rape culture” or “There is a lot of cissexism/racism/ableism on AVEN,” the correct response is not “Prove it.” (Which usually results in—after showing the person several relevant threads—the person saying “Those are just a few isolated threads/users!”)
Another most-likely-bad response is to start threads on AVEN asking members “Is AVEN rapeculturey/racist/cissexist/ableist?” because you will get a whole lot of white people saying it’s not racist, cis people saying it’s not cissexist, neurotypical people without disabilities saying it’s not ableist, and people who have never personally witnessed rape culture on AVEN saying it’s not a rape culture. And those responses will drown out the relevant responses from the POC talking about their experiences of racism, the trans* and nonbinary people talking about experiences of cissexism and binarism, people with disabilities talking about experiences of ableism, and rape/abuse survivors talking about their experiences of rape culture on AVEN.
The correct response is—just maybe—training mods to recognize rape culture, rape apologism, cissexism, ableism, and racism as things that encompass behaviors other than bluntly using slurs. And calling out those behaviors, even if they’re subtle–there is nothing wrong with telling someone, “Hey, are you sure you meant that? It could be read in this way that is racist/etc.” If there are not enough mods to be able to watch for all of those things, the obvious solution is to have more mods, because AVEN is huge.
I’m tired of people (mainly AVENites) making excuses for not trying to fix the hostile environment on AVEN. We shouldn’t need to “prove” it’s a hostile environment in order to work on fixing it.